Having arrived in London a couple of weeks ago, Erin has settled into her Curatorial Fellowship at Whitechapel Gallery and residency at Delfina Foundation. An Associate Curator at Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong, Erin shares what shapes her practice and passions in every day life - from street dance to fermentation.
ASYMMETRY: How are you developing your curatorial specialisation in live art?
ERIN LI: Having worked in several public art institutions targeting various audiences, I often ponder upon the relationship between audience and art. With its inherent awareness of the audience, live art holds a special place in my heart.
I developed knowledge of live art mainly through working closely with artists and other curators, especially from collaborating with Raimundas Malašauskas, Xue Tan, Tom Engels, and Louiza Ho on trust & confusion, a major live art exhibition at Tai Kwun Contemporary in 2021. I also read about live art and frequently participate in projects from other disciplines such as dance, theatre, music, film, and literature etc. for refreshing inspirations. While in London, I have been researching how local contemporary art institutions started to highlight live art since the 1990s, in preparation for an exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery. I am also very excited about artist and curator meet-ups set up by Delfina Foundation.
A: Where do you draw inspiration and ideas for your projects?
EL: To create resonance, I believe art projects have to be utterly sincere. Most of my curatorial projects stem from casual conversations and reflections on everyday experiences and philosophies, on what makes us feel alive. For instance, my recent curatorial project “emo gym”(short for “emotion gymnasium”) sprung from the personal observations of omnipresent vulnerabilities in the past few years and the desire to create an intimate space for dissecting and embracing such emotions.
During my 6-month Curatorial Fellowship, I have been developing two curatorial ideas out of interest in fermentation as well as street dance. While making sourdough bread, kombucha, and pickles, I started to think about the philosophy of fermentation in relation to time-based art and artistic experiments pushing the boundaries of risk and materiality. As a street dancer, I have also been looking into the intersections of street dance and contemporary art.
A: What professional advice would you give your younger self?
EL: Looking back, I am grateful to my younger self for staying open to new realms and challenges in both work and other aspects of life. Those experiences, whether directly related to art or not, whether sweet moments or bitter times, all fermented into the richest source of inspirations for my curatorial practice.
I would advise my younger self to write more about art. Admittedly, publishing art reviews for the first few times could be intimidating, like streaking in a park. But even just writing for oneself is an excellent practice for the mind and can result in precious curatorial notes for the future self. John Batten, President of the International Association of Art Critics Hong Kong, has been passionately encouraging me to keep writing in the past years. For that I am forever thankful.